Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Milwaukee Mayhem: Murder and Mystery in the Cream City's First Century
By Matthew J. Prigge
224 pages, 25 b&w photos, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2; E-Book Edition AvailableBuy
From murder and matchstick men to all-consuming fires, painted women, and Great Lakes disasters--and the wide-eyed public who could not help but gawk at it all--"Milwaukee Mayhem" uncovers the little-remembered and rarely told history of the underbelly of a Midwestern metropolis. "Milwaukee Mayhem" offers a new perspective on Milwaukee's early years, forgoing the major historical signposts found in traditional histories and focusing instead on the strange and brutal tales of mystery, vice, murder, and disaster that were born of the city's transformation from lakeside settlement to American metropolis. Author Matthew J. Prigge presents these stories as they were recounted to the public in the newspapers of the era, using the vivid and often grim language of the times to create an engaging and occasionally chilling narrative of a forgotten Milwaukee.
Through his thoughtful introduction, Prigge gives the work context, eschewing assumptions about "simpler times" and highlighting the mayhem that the growth and rise of a city can bring about. These stories are the orphans of Milwaukee's history, too unusual to register in broad historic narratives, too strange to qualify as nostalgia, but nevertheless essential to our understanding of this American city.
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Matthew J. Prigge is a freelance author and historian from Milwaukee and the host of "What Made Milwaukee Famous," a weekly local history segment on WMSE 91.7. His work has been featured in both local and national publications and has won multiple awards, including the 2013 William Best Hesseltine Award from the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Since 2011, he has led sightseeing historical tours of Milwaukee's rivers and harbor for the Milwaukee Boat Line. In 2013, he created the Mondo Milwaukee Boat Tour, an evening historical tour of some of the city's most infamous sights. "Milwaukee Mayhem" is his second book. He writes a history blog for Milwaukee's "Shepherd Express" and has also authored several articles for the "Wisconsin Magazine of History."